AUSTIN (KXAN) — If you’ve been feeling burnout at work lately, you’re not alone.
Burnout and stress are at all-time highs across professions, according to the American Psychological Association.
In the 2021 Work and Well-Being Survey conducted by the APA, 79% of respondents reported feeling work-related stress in the month before the survey.
With all the extra pressure and changes put on teachers and healthcare workers, it should come as no surprise that those jobs are two of the most impacted.
I talked with burnout expert and UC Berkeley Psychology Professor Dr. Christina Maslach about what’s happening, and what can be done.
Tom: Everybody has heard of this term burnout. Lots of people have felt it, and associate it with feeling overworked, but what does it actually mean?
Dr. Maslach: Responding to chronic job stressors, the important thing there is chronic, they’re there all of the time, most of the time, not just occasionally. But the two other components, one is this kind of cynical, hostile, take this job and shove it kind of attitude. The third component is a negative response to oneself and thinking maybe this is a mistake, maybe I’m not really good at this.
Tom: How does burnout compare over time, now compared to in the past?
Dr. Maslach: With the pandemic, it actually challenges that attitude of the job just is what it is, you can’t change it. You can change it, we had to change it, we had to do different stuff. Some of it worked well, some of it was not.
Tom: Did the pandemic make burnout better or worse?
Dr. Maslach: I think, and particularly in some occupations more than others, the pandemic made it worse. What we’ve seen is that many professions that are people facing professions, you’re dealing with patients, or students, or customers, or clients, have had more issues around burnout. In other cases on the positive side, people were finding that, ‘hey, I don’t have to commute a couple of hours twice a day, I can do this work here and I can do it different times of day.’ So if you were in a good position to work from home, there were things that could in fact make it easier or better, or you could do it in another way.
Tom: Are there certain professions that are more at risk of burnout?
Dr. Maslach: The key thing to point to there I think is healthcare, it was having burnout problems for decades. The pandemic and their role in what they had to do, just escalated in a way that made the burnout rates worse. Another one that really got hit hard was school teachers. Now you can’t be in the classroom with the students. Suddenly your world is just completely turned upside down and you have to now figure out how am I going to do this online.
Tom: What can we do as workers to lower the risk of burnout?
Dr. Maslach: The important question is not who is burning out, it’s why are they burning out, what are these sources, these things out there that are causing these problems in the first place. Coping, which is what we’re doing when we’re helping people respond to stress, is fine, but it’s only part of the answer. The other part is how do we reduce, or eliminate, or at least make better ways of handling those chronic job stressors.